How NOT to act in a gift shop.

I’m not sure if it was laziness or self-loathing that kept me in my job for so long. Gift Shop Blues

Despite my degree (from a REAL university!) and my sensational ability to moon-walk AND juggle (at the same time if necessary) – I  worked in a museum gift shop for 26 months.

People greatly underestimate how much I hated my job, or how much I loved and admired my smart, brilliant, diligent colleagues and all the weird, crazy, surreal shit that happened to us on a relentless basis.

During my two-year stint as a popcorn-seller I learned how to shout exit in 11 languages, and that Bulgarians shake their head when they mean yes, and they nod when they mean NO: the most confusing thing anyone has ever seen.

I learned that nothing is ever salty enough for the Italians (not even salt itself), and that Indians like to wobble their heads in reply to ALL questions and non-questions indiscriminately. I’m still not sure if this means yes, or no, or just a big BUGGER OFF, but it’s contagious and lethal and chaos often ensues, especially when you find yourself doing it back, wrongly.

And above all things: I learned that many countries view a paying-area like a Darwinian arena for violence and blood.

It’s NOT survival of the fittest, you are buying keychains, evolution has already forgotten you. DON’T try your luck again: GET IN THE LINE AND STAY THERE UNTIL YOU ARE CALLED.

I love a good queue. Orderly, fair, impartial – exempt from the whims of fate. But having ONE queue for THREE tills is just too much for some to comprehend. They would instead propel themselves up the exit like deranged Spartans seeking vengeance, sandals flying, clambering over the barriers, abseiling from the ceiling; anything that got them closer to the cash register… Where they would inevitably arrive and cause me grievance.

They’d be queing for ten minutes, eye-balling ME, the teller, the entire time with an expression that screams “HURRY UP! WHY IS THIS TAKING SO LONG!?” Then they’d arrive, throw down their purchases, wait for me to ring up the price, and “OH” they’ll think, “I should probably get my wallet out. Let me rifle through the contents of my life for a long-while trying to find it.”

Were you not expecting to pay at the end of the transaction? What were you anticipating instead? An orgasm? Well, we’ve stopped doing those, sorry. HAVE YOUR BASTARD PURSE IN YOUR HAND READY TO PAY, YOU TERRIBLE HUMAN-BEING!

And no, no, NO, you can’t barter, or pay in pound-notes-that-went-out-of-circulation-in-the-70s, or rupees, or magic, OR tears. Just sterling. So if you’re unfamiliar with the concept of pounds and pennies you should definitely take some time BEFORE you approach the till-area to familiarise yourself.  Please don’t hold up the rest of my customers, rustling through those alien silvers, wondering what that huge heptagon with the big 50 pence written on it could possibly be. 14 pounds maybe?

Better stare at it for several minutes to make sure. Yes, the British fiscal system is out to get you. They haven’t forgiven you for Hastings or 54AD or that time you revolutioned and were granted independence just yet. So don’t be fooled by what looks like a 50pence, inspect it thoroughly until it is snatched from your hands by your embassy. Or the angry shop assistant. One or both is sure to turn up and rid you of your nuisance.

It’s unlikely the guidebook comes in “Australian,” you might have to settle for English. And I’m sorry your 12-year-old digested bubble bath thinking it was some form of edible sweet, but I really didn’t feel it appropriate to tell him NOT to… There are just SO many things you shouldn’t do with bubble bath. You shouldn’t put it up your bum, or pour it in babies eyes on trains, or use it as a substitute for birth control… but I really thought these were givens and didn’t have to be explained on purchase.

SO I APOLOGISE PROFOUNDLY, for assuming you knew all these things already. Please don’t get me started on all the stuff you shouldn’t do with a souvenir sharpener. We would be here all day and my queue line would eat you alive, and I don’t feel like it’s my duty to explain to them that they shouldn’t eat fellow customers, or put them up their bum, or pour them in babies eyes on trains, or use them as a substitute for birth control…

I hate to inform you the slush isn’t ready for purchase yet… It won’t be for another 20 minutes. Please don’t throw a tantrum on the floor. The Red Cross are fully aware of your struggle and the inhumanity of this situation, and will be arriving soon to distribute aid. Think they’re a bit waylaid by the famine in Eritrea at the moment, but they won’t let a disaster like this pass them by. Hang on in there Madam and be strong!

Why not hang out by the crisps and decide which flavour you want while you wait? It’s much like Sophie’s Choice this isn’t it? She was contemplating which of her kids she had to hand over to the Nazis, you’re torn between Salt’N’Vinegar or Quavers. This could take at least quarter of an hour of standing in everyone’s way and wasting everyone’s time. There might even be an Oscar in the pipeline if you do this well.

But NO. Just because I’m slightly brown does not mean I’m giving YOU a discount for being slightly brown too. So stop smiling at me and telling me I have lovely eyes, the colour of the sea after a storm. Because you’re not paying any less than you are supposed to… Unless you genuinely are a devastatingly-handsome-and-charming man, because that is a combination that trumps all and often leads to staff-discount.

Between you and I: If you are rude to me you WILL be getting your change in nothing but 20pence pieces (and NOT the shiny ones, either). We operate a NO notes for dickheads policy here dudes. I will sabotage your happiness in small and effective measures if you treat me as anything less than your equal.

Five pound notes are especially rare and valuable to us cashiers. We will be stock-piling those in our war against douche-baggery, for sure. This ain’t a shop, IT’S A GODAMNED ARMS RACE! Only the politest, friendliest customers will be receiving five pound notes in their change. It’s sort of our way for saying Thank you for being a decent human being and not a massive twat.

“Where is the exit?” Have you looked for the exit? NO. You haven’t, have you? You’ve been too busy wondering what uscite is in English and how you can cut the queue without anyone noticing.

The exit is probably where all those big arrows with EXIT painted on them are pointing, it’s NOT the small black door that looks like it might be a cupboard, so stop crawling in there. If you get caught in those wires I WILL LEAVE YOU THERE UNTIL YOU DIE, OR LEARN. And we both know which will come first.

Neither is the exit that ceiling tile, or the bin. It’s that great big expanse over there with all the light shining in through it. So fuck off, and goodluck with the rest of your life.

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